Getting a pet is a big decision and it’s one you shouldn’t rush into. The number of dogs looking for rehoming is testament to the fact that not everyone gives it enough thought.
Some of the benefits are obvious. Dogs add another layer of cosiness and cuddles to a family’s life as well as providing everyone with a great reason to get out of the house and enjoy lots of fresh air.
But you also have to consider how having a dog will fit into your family’s routine. Many of us lead really busy lives - will adding a dog into the mix be manageable? Beyond the practicalities, you also have to bear in mind the costs associated with owning a dog.
Research on pet ownership from Voucherbox revealed that the average costs of owning a dog over its lifetime come to around £15,000. That includes the cost of the puppy, along with year-on-year costs of feeding and caring for them, as well as paying pet insurance. Whatever way you look at it, it’s a significant investment. However, it’s one that many of us are willing to do - because we know what joy a dog will bring to family life. Even though dogs ranked as the second most expensive pet in the Voucherbox research, it didn’t affect their popularity. In the UK, 51% of households have a pet, and a quarter of those have a dog.
So, beyond the obvious upsides of having a dog, what are the hidden benefits of dog ownership?
A Wagging Tail Reduces Stress
The simple presence of a dog in the house can lower family stress levels. For instance, if one of the kids has had a bad day - maybe they’ve argued with their best friend or been told off by the teacher - all worries are forgotten when the dog bounds over to them. Dogs are perceptive too - they know when kids will be in the mood to stroke and cuddle them rather than ready for a bit of a playfighting.
Studies have shown that our oxytocin levels increase when we spend time with our pets, and this is a hormone that adds to the sense of security and wellbeing in our lives. It’s the same hormone that encourages a mother-baby bond, so it must be doing us some good.
It Teaches the Kids About Responsibility
You already know about responsibility - you’re a parent! But even though they may not even be aware of it, having a dog in the family will teach children a lot about being responsible and caring for others. It’s not just the obvious things like feeding and grooming the dog, and scooping their poop when out on a walk. There are also more subtle aspects of responsibility; like understanding why a trip to the beach has to be cut short because you need to get home to let the dog out.
An Immune System Boost
If you’re a house-proud mum, you might be thinking you don’t want a dog because of the extra cleaning they’ll bring to your life. However, having those dog hairs around can actually have an upside. Growing up with a pet dog can actually reduce kids’ likelihood of developing asthma as they’ll build up a certain level of tolerance to any allergens that dogs produce. Pets also come with a whole mix of their own germs that won’t do us, humans, any harm, but can still help improve the strength of our immune systems.
Of course, there are some downsides to owning a dog, not least the expense involved and the limits they impose on your time. You always need to think about what to do with them - whether you’re out for the day or going away on holiday - and they can’t always come with you. But ask any dog owner if it’s a good idea to get one, and the likelihood is that every one of them will list the benefits before they think about the downsides.
Written by Charlotte Blairman.